Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.

Literary Agent Interview: Savannah Brooks Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Savannah Brooks here. She is a literary agent at kt literary.

Hi Savannah! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Savannah:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent.

I started thinking about working in publishing while I was in grad school, earning my MFA in creative writing, but I wasn’t totally sure what I wanted to do. I took roles in various capacities—from an editor at a small local publishing house to the editor-in-chief of a literary magazine to a teaching assistant for creative writing classes—and eventually landed an internship with the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in 2018. In 2019, I was brought on board as an associate agent, and this past summer I joined the amazing team at KT Literary as an agent. It’s funny, when I started out, I was very focused on children’s literature but only YA and MG. It took a year and a half for me to pick up a picture book, but once I did, I quickly realized how much I adore them. So that’s really been an area of specialty for me.

 About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

KT was founded by Kate Testerman in 2008, and it started out very specifically focused in MG and YA. It’s grown quite a bit since then but has kept its expertise in children’s lit while broadening out to adult work, too. In my mind, how KT differentiates itself is that the whole agency dedicates themselves to each client. Clients get to know multiple agents, we host office hours where all the agency clients can get together and ask questions—it’s such an intentional, welcoming community.

What She’s Looking For:

3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I represent the whole gamut of kid lit: picture books, chapter books, MG, and YA, in both fiction and nonfiction. Across the board, I’m primarily dedicated to representing marginalized authors and bringing informational, empowering, joyful stories into the world. I love to learn, so projects that share fun cultural staples—be they holidays, traditions, practices, etc.—always jump out at me, as do bilingual stories. For picture books, I like more serious topics, and I’m not afraid to get political—I encourage it, actually. For MG, I really only represent highly commercial genres like portal mythologies and mysteries. For YA, I’m pretty limited to contemporary, urban fantasy, and thrillers.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to see in the genres you are interested in?

Oh gosh, I could go on about this for ages, but I think it’s easier to mention a couple client projects that really show what I’m looking for:

      A picture book about how genetics plays in disability

      A picture book about all the roles a Black barbershop plays in a community

      A MG bilingual summer camp mystery with a Choctaw main character

      A MG portal mythology about Indonesia sea queen folklore

      A YA historical (from the 90s! yikes!) based around the murder of Matthew Shepard

      A YA urban fantasy about a girl who makes a deal with a Japanese goddess to try and work through a traumatic friendship breakup

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

For picture book folks, I’m not a good fit for animal protagonists, rhyme, or purely whimsical stories. For MG, I’m not looking for quieter stories or for coming of age tales. For YA, SFF and hetero romance are tough sells for me. In general, stories that have a classic feel probably aren’t for me. I’m primarily looking for stories told from new perspectives and lenses.

Agent Philosophy:

6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

I believe that books make people better people, so above all, I’m looking for stories that create empathy. I want to bring books into the world that teach kids and teens to be curious and kind, that can guide them through tough times, and that celebrate different cultures and communities.

Editorial Agent:

7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

I’m a very editorial agent, yes. I have an MFA in creative writing, I’m a lit professor, and I came up through publishing on the editorial side first, so all that plays into how I interact with my clients’ work. I take a telescoping approach: we start with an editorial letter than gets at big content edits, then we work down to lines edits and finally copyediting. I’m also a very collaborative agent. I rarely give prescriptive edits, preferring to give guidelines and see where my authors go from there. I also love brainstorming with them.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)

8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

I only take queries through QueryManager, so if people email me, I’ll respond asking them to resubmit there. In a query letter, I really want to see what the project is about—as opposed to why the project is important or why the author wrote it—and get a good sense of the voice/tone. So long as a query does that, is in a genre I represent, and is within a solid work count, I’ll read through the first couple of pages, at least.

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

My main dislikes aren’t so much about projects as they are about how writers present themselves. I’m not down with writers who 1) come across as arrogant (“this is going to be the next great American novel”), 2) come across as disparaging of their own work or the querying process (“this probably isn’t even that good,” “you probably won’t even read this”), and 3) put other books/authors/agents down. Agents are signing writers for what’ll hopefully be a long working relationship, so we need to feel like we’d enjoy working with you.

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

This really depends. Sometimes I’m very on top of my query inbox and get back to folks in a couple weeks, but other times I fall behind. If I have seven client manuscripts in my queue to be edited, chances are I’m not looking at queries. I also have some pretty serious health issues, so my personal life can throw work off track.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

11.  Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?

I’m open so long as the project they’re querying hasn’t already been published. Those I won’t take on because the project really needs to be an Indie bestseller in order for editors to consider it. Otherwise it doesn’t really matter to me unless those projects are problematic/poorly written. My general advice is don’t try to use self-publishing as a way to launch yourself into traditional publishing. It backfires more often than it works.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

Not really. There have always been presses that accept unsolicited submissions, and large publishers are such a powerhouse—for better and for worse—that they’re always going to be appealing to authors. I also see my job as much more client-focused than business-focused. I spend most of my time working with them on bettering their writing, which in turn makes them better writers. Selling their work is the ultimate goal, but it’s not what I value the most.

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I represent a good amount of folks, almost all of them debuts. You can find the whole list at sblitagent.com/clients.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews, guest posts, and podcasts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

At the bottom of the homepage of my website, sblitagent.com, you can find a handful of interviews I’ve done over the years. The most recent are going to be the most helpful. In general, I highly recommend the podcast Print Run. It’s done by two literary agents, Laura Zats and Erik Hane—fellow Minneapolis people!—and is written for writers to better understand the publishing industry. It’s incredibly informational and has won some pretty sweet awards.

Links and Contact Info:

15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

You can find pretty much all relevant info on my website, sblitagent.com, including links to my Manuscript Wishlist page and QueryManager site. Feel free to follow me on Twitter, too—@sblitagent—where you can find a lot of pictures of a tiny monster who masquerades as my cat.

Additional Advice:

16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

The whole publishing process is long and hard, and it can be really rough on writers. Try to find a writing group or some other support network; they can be lifesavers. Also remember that the “I found an agent in two weeks!” success stories you hear on Twitter are so, so rare. Most people query for months if not years. It can be lonely, but I promise you’re not alone in your experience.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Savannah.

Savannah is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment through December 31st. Due to the holidays, the winner will not be notified until after January 1, 2023. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is an international giveaway.

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or email me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.

36 comments:

Liz A. said...

Isn't it funny how you might not think you're into one thing, and then you find you are? Picture books sound like fun.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your perspective! So helpful!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for offering a critique! Fingers crossed...

M said...

Thanks for this opportunity for the critique

la-ta said...

Thank you for your insights, Savannah! Would love to be considered for a query critique.

abby mumford said...

What an informative interview! I too would love to read all the books Savannah's looking for! :) And what a generous offer for a query critique! I'd love to be in the running. Happy holidays, all!

sburdorf said...

Wow. Great stuff in that article. Thank you for the chance to win a query critique. That is most generous of you!
susan.burdorf@comcast.net
Susan Burdorf

Jessica Haster said...

Such a great interview! Loved the MSWL! I shared on Twitter :)

Kim said...

Wow! So glad to see this interview today, I was just deciding if I was going to submit to Savannah! Thank you!

Freda L. said...

Thank you for this helpful interview.
flewk1@aol.com

Laddy Lau said...

Great interview and Savannah's client projects are fire!! I would love to win a query critique. Thanks for your generosity and happy holidays!

Ilona Bray said...

Thanks for the discussion of editorial agenting, this is hugely important to me!

Stephanie J said...

I'm going to have to try Print Run. Thanks for the recommendation, Savannah! Great interview. stephaniewritesforkids (at) gmail (dot) com.

Jacqui Murray said...

Good interview. Love the book suggestions. Sadly, I didn't see prehistoric fiction on the list!

S. Lee said...

Savannah sounds like a great agent. Definitely gonna check out that podcast!

Rose Kent said...

Interesting interview!

I want to read some of these stories that Savannah
is looking for too. :)

Happy Holidays, All!

Andie said...

Great information! Hoping...

Lauri Fortino said...

So great to learn more about you and KT Literary! (shared on Twitter)

Becky said...

Thanks for the interview, and I'd love a critique!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Sandra Cox said...

Great interview and picture.
Happy Holidays.

Janet Frenck Sheets said...

It's neat to see that Savannah represents a lot of debut authors. Thanks for an informative interview, Savannah and Natalie.

Margaret Aitken said...

These interviews are so helpful! I enjoyed learning more about Savannah.

Unknown said...

Thanks for offering this opportunity. Fingers crossed. Happy Holidays!

Unknown said...

Thank you, appreciate it very much!

Patti said...

Thanks very much!

Jwrites said...

I love the specifics in what Savannah is looking for in manuscripts!

Thank you,
Jenna Hammond
jennamhammond@gmail.com

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for this agent interview. Very informative. I'll share on Twitter and FB. Carol Baldwin

Folami said...

This sounds great. I hope I win.
Folamithequeen at aol.com

Jennifer P. said...

Very helpful insights. Thanks for having the time to share through this interview!

Garden Girl said...

This interview with Savannah is informative.

I always appreciate the many opportunities you share, Natalie.

This interview was shared on my WordPress and Twitter accounts. I always enjoy reading your emails.

Thank you.
Sue Leopold

Katie TheLogonauts said...

Thanks so much for sharing, Savannah! I really appreciate it when agents are clear about expectations and interests, and this interview laid yours out so clearly.

1logonaut at gmail dot com
katie_mcenaney on Twitter

Katie TheLogonauts said...

(Also retweeted on Twitter @katie_mcenaney)

Weaver said...

These posts are so useful to people seeking agents. Happy New Year!

Science Writer said...

Wow, great interview! Do you think Savannah would speak to our critique group?
Paula Young

DMS said...

What an interesting interview. Always interesting to hear straight from agents. Thanks for sharing. :)
~Jess